4 airlines that could end up with NCA’s 747-400Fs

There are a handful of likely contenders to acquire ’s three idled .

At least two of Nippon Cargo Airlines’ three idled 747-400 freighters (36133, 36135) were reportedly ferried for storage at Victorville (VCV) this week, lending support to rumors that the all-cargo carrier is now looking to sell or lease out the freighters.

In mid-June of this year, was forced to ground its entire eleven-unit 747F fleet after Japan’s Civil Aviation Bureau found the airline had omitted multiple incidents related to the aircraft, and launched a subsequent audit of the airline. To comply with the audit, in August, submitted an improvement plan to Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism, and stated that it would seek to offload its and move to a platform consisting entirely of 747-8Fs. has since resumed most of its routes using -8Fs, with its remaining routes – Tokyo-Los Angeles (NRT-LAX) and NRT-Frankfurt/Hahn (HHN) – once aircraft safety is confirmed and flight arrangements are made.

However, the resumption of ’s -8F service leaves the question: What will happen to the three outgoing -400Fs? There’s no shortage of demand for idled , as we noted in an analysis of some of those freighters back in August. In considering the fleet plans of major carriers, as well as ’s relationships with other airlines, Cargo Facts has identified four of the likely contenders to acquire the idled freighters.

  1. . Shanghai-based HNA-affiliate (previously Yangtze River Express) operates a widebody fleet of four . While its widebody fleet was stable over the past year, the carrier has sold off some of its aging narrowbody freighters, and currently operates ten 737-300Fs and one 737-400F. However, we at Cargo Facts believe that, in addition to considering 737 NG freighters to replace some of its outgoing classics, Suparna might be ideally situated to modernize its widebody fleet through the acquisition of at least one of the 744s. The oldest of ’s three is just over eleven years old – slightly younger than the youngest of Suparna’s four 747s, and much younger than the other three, which range from twenty to twenty-seven years old.
  2. Silk Way West. new-build and used, as Silk Way picked up another ex-Malaysia Airlines -400F (28434) back in May. The freighters fall into the same sweet-spot in age – around a decade – as those -400Fs Silk Way snapped up from Malaysia Airlines, which suggests the carrier might find the ex- freighters equally attractive.
  3. . The Luxembourg-based, all-cargo carrier has a cooperation agreement with in place, giving access to ’s NRT-HHN flights, and giving access on flights from Luxembourg to NRT. Additionally, ’s President and CEO, Richard Forson, told Cargo Facts earlier this year that the carrier plans to add three next year. At the time, we identified ’s aircraft as a likely source for the freighters, but it was not yet clear whether looked to offload the -400Fs. Today, this deal looks much more likely.
  4. . It would come as no surprise were Atlas to acquire one or more of the outgoing freighters. Since September 2017, Atlas has operated two on an ACMI basis for , so there is already a framework in place for cooperation between Atlas and , were the latter to opt for leasing its -400Fs rather than selling them. Beyond the relationship between the companies, Atlas has steadily added freighters to its extensive fleet this year, including its most recent 747-400F acquisition (30608, ex-EVA Air) last month. During its 3Q earnings call earlier this month, Atlas noted that it will place two additional in ACMI operations by the end of the year – its first for SF Express and its second for Asiana Cargo. With its growing ACMI segment, Atlas would be well-positioned to find a place for ’s -400Fs.
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